Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure, a “welding” process, used to correct problems with the small bones of the spine (vertebrae). The idea behind spinal fusion surgery is to fuse together the vertebrae so they could heal into a solid bone.
Sounds good, right (apart from the “welding” thing. Ouch.)?
But the numbers and statistics related to the success rate and risks are so horrendous, that I simply can’t understand why spinal fusion is even offered to the millions suffering from low back pain.
Spinal Fusion Surgery Statistics
- 13% of patients will be back in the hospital within 30 days.
- 20% will need another surgery within 10 years.
- Risk of stroke is double that of decompression surgery.
- Risk of death is double that of decompression surgery (data from losethebackpain.com)
The Risks of Spinal Fusion Surgery
These are only the most common risks of this surgery; I thought I would spare you the less common ones (to prevent an anxiety attack):
1. Pain getting worse – Prescription drugs dependency
2. Nerve damage
3. Blood clots
5. Death during surgery
And all of this for a procedure shown to be USELESS (at best) by many studies!
A few months ago, a new study published in Spine compared the success rate of lumbar fusion surgery with nonsurgical treatments using Ohio workers’ compensation data.
These were the results:
After 2 years, 11% of people under going spinal fusion were permanently disabled, comparing to 2% not having surgery.
36% of surgeries resulted with surgery complications, reoperation rate was 27% and only 26% returned to work, compared to 67% of the people NOT having surgery.
What About the Cost?
I know that money is less of a concern when you have agonizing pain in your back, but spinal fusions cost a fortune (an average bill of $80,000), even if you are covered by insurance.
That money won’t ever come back, even if the surgery doesn’t work, or worse – Causes you more damage than you started out with.
The Bloomberg website interviewed Sohail Mirza, a spine surgeon who chairs the Department of Orthopedics at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire.
This is what he said about spinal fusions:
“It’s amazing how much evidence there is that fusions don’t work, yet surgeons do them anyway… The only one who isn’t benefiting from the equation is the patient.”
Who IS Benefiting From Spinal Fusion Surgeries?
I’ll let you answer this one yourself, just look at the numbers:
1. The number of fusions at U.S. hospitals doubled to 413,000 between 2002 and 2008, generating $34 billion in bills, data from the federal Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project show.
2. Another beneficiary was Medtronic Inc., which makes products for spinal surgery, including Infuse, a bone-growing material widely used in fusions. Infuse accounted for $17,575 of Abbott Northwestern’s charges, Hehn’s medical bills and insurance records show. Infuse, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002, had sales of $840 million last year.
3. Spine surgeons have become the best paid doctors in the U.S. Their average annual salary is $806,000, more than three times the earnings of a pediatrician, according to the American Medical Group Association, a trade organization for doctor practices.(source is here)
What Are The Alternatives for Spinal Fusion Surgery?
In my personal opinion, any kind of surgery should be a last resort, something to turn to when everything else has failed.
The alternatives for spinal surgery depend on the underlying cause for your lower back pain. See these resources for effective, natural and safe treatments for your condition:
What about you? Do you still think that surgery is your best and only option?
To your health & happiness,